Have you ever left a yoga class feeling wholly and completely satisfied – well beyond the shapes you created with the body – with a sense of power and peace vibrating deep within the center of your mental and emotional self?
Whew, deep stuff.
But if the answer is YES, we can only assume it’s because the teacher wove asana with intention in a way that touched your soul. Your takeaway was more than just the physical; the class had a theme that guided you toward a greater understanding of what it means to practice yoga in all facets of life.
If you are a new yoga teacher (or a seasoned teacher experiencing a little bit of dharma talk block), this list might just become your new best friend. Some of our favorite local yoga teachers offered up some of their favorite class themes, accumulated from the fabric of life – think books they’ve read, music they’ve heard, conversations and experiences they’ve had, and lessons learned.
Let this list inspire you to go BIG in class – beyond the flow! Breath, move, and become aware of more than just the physical.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to this list!
The Difference Between Showing Up and Arriving, from Bridget Riepl
When I worked as an attorney, getting to yoga was extraordinarily difficult. There were fifteen stop lights along my route to the studio, which meant the ride could take anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes, depending on my luck. I generally had to finish up at least one call in the car, which meant I spent ½ the ride (long or short), gritting my teeth and trying to “make nice” with someone I literally referred to as my “adversary” at all times. By the time I finally got to class, I was a mess of emotions AND I was normally late. I’d throw my stuff down, peel off my fancy clothes, and collapse on the mat with what felt like the weight of the world on my shoulders. When the teacher started speaking my mind was often miles away, still tying up loose ends or stressing over what I could have/should have said and done.
Yes, I’d “shown up” for yoga – but I hadn’t “arrived” with any of the connection, awareness, and mindfulness we hope to discover. Also, I wasn’t always ready to just “let it go” – or maybe I didn’t know how.
I tell that story for two reasons. First, because it is SO common; we live busy lives in a challenging world. Second, because I want every single person in the room to know that we are all in this reality of being human in an incredibly chaotic world together. Showing up is AMAZING, but now let’s take five minutes, together, to arrive. And sure, maybe next time you’ll give yourself an extra ten minutes of travel time, power down the devices, and mark yourself as “out of office” for some of the pre and post yoga time – but also, maybe you won’t. And that’s okay. For now, let’s just be here together with compassion and kindness.
The Warrior Within Through Yoga Philosophy, from Stephanie Barrios-Cullins
Prior to motherhood asana was my only focus in my yoga practice. Pushing it to the limit with inversions, a heated practice and sometimes sitting in uncomfortable poses for too long out of straight up ego. I then had my first daughter in 2016, lost my job prior to maternity leave, had to live with my parents at 26 with my husband and newborn, and also started my first yoga teacher training. I never thought I would be tested so much in my first few months of motherhood. The thing that saved me, helped me detach and better educated me on yoga of action and yoga philosophy was the Bhagavad Gita. I finally began to read a worthy text that was allowing me to maneuver through the ebbs and flows of life; marriage, motherhood, womanhood and straight up individuality, accountability and ownership. It helped me build a tool kit, a way to to pick myself up and dust myself off, to understand I wasn’t a victim but a warrior pushed to confront real life and uncomfortable situations. The tool kit that so many of us need… to get by and stay afloat, mentally and emotionally.
The more that I began to teach the more I realized that students (per my yoga profession) and underrepresented people (per my daily profession) need this tool kit. They need to know and understand why the acceptance of life’s troubles and triumphs were essential to mastering themselves and finding the strength and guidance from within. After all per the Gita… we are all Krishna. We all carry the power of the internal warrior within us. It’s only up to us to encourage our students with teaching through philosophy in asana focused classes and making this tool kit accessible to marginalized populations. As read in the Gita, ”Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his foot steps, and whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.”
How We Choose to React, from Vanessa Van Noy
“We cannot choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we react to it.”
My classes tend to be on the challenging side, so I like to ask my students to tap into a deeper sense of awareness, focused around how they react to the physical stress of their asana experience. Once they’ve made the connection, we investigate how their on-the-mat reaction correlates to how they handle all the different kinds of stress that life throws at us.
Life is Beautiful, from Karena Virginia
In this chaotic time in the world, we have forgotten our angelic selves. We shame ourselves for being imperfect rather than blessing ourselves for being the whole children of the divine that we are here to be! We lose sight of the magic of the subtle realm by putting our energy into fitting into the box rather than by celebrating our authenticity! We react. We defend. We fight. We flight. We freeze. We appease. We get stuck in the trance of the mind which is a prison of cellular memories and ancestral imprints that continue to overstimulate our nervous systems. We do not trust and rely on the angel in us. How do we trust we are attracting the angelic in the subtle realms without embracing the angel within?
It is time! WE will do this magical practice together, and we will experience a miraculous shift in our lives. We become the angels our souls recognize in us, and we will connect with the angels beyond who are assisting us consistently. Life is beautiful. Especially together.
Steadiness & Ease, from Christine Dates
One of my favorite themes is Sthira & Sukha – Steadiness & Ease – and how it relates to the ever present connection of our bodies and our breath. Recently, I’ve been applying this theme in classes as we work into standing twists (such as Parivrtta Trikonasana and Parivrtta Parsvakonasana). It doesn’t always feel accessible to find either steadiness or ease – let alone both – in these poses. But once we make our way into a shape, can we allow the breath to elongate, and fill even the sides of the ribcage with breath? Does finding ease within your breath translate to a greater sense of ease within the pose? Hopefully!
Gratitude is Like a Flashlight, from Allison Sorokin
“Gratitude is like a flashlight. If you go out in your yard at night and turn on a flashlight, you suddenly can see what’s there. It was always there, but you couldn’t see it in the dark.” MJ Ryan
We ALL experience ourselves and others through the veil of our own perception; based on old beliefs, misunderstandings, and ignorance. When we get on our mat and become willing to see things with an open heart, we become aware of ourselves & others through a different lens; our understanding deepens, and we connect with something bigger.
It’s as if the flashlight gets brighter and the light stays on longer. We see with more clarity and focus. Gratitude becomes something we feel and experience all year round (not just during the holidays).
Resilience, from Rachel Wallace
I bring my class to the mat ask they to breathe into their ability to adjust and rise in each posture. In a physical sense, I’ll invite them to punctuate challenging sequences and longer holds with resting postures, like child’s pose and savasana, so we can build awareness around the power of pausing. We release ourselves from the autopilot of continuous, effort-full flows and focus on restructuring what it means to move with intention and awareness.
Transitions, from April Puciata
I always like the theme of transitions, with attention to how we enter and exit poses, how we breathe – inhale to exhale, exhale to inhale, and how we enter, leave, and hold a space. I heard Seane Corn say something like, “the transitions are poetry and the poses are punctuation.”
As we work on shape shifting with grace, poise, strength, compassion, and mindfulness, we gain insight on how to transition through situations in life. Whether it’s entering a room when your late, diving into a difficult conversation, or exiting a dramatic situation – we learn something on the mat that translates and enables us to engage meaningfully in the art of paying attention.
When We are Vulnerable and Connected, We Can Heal from Morgan Vento
Yoga has been my outlet in the wake of years of personal trauma; the practice has taught me that vulnerability is a gift – a gift that is crucial for healing. I lost my father last year unexpectedly to alcoholism; being in a room filled with yogis, knowing that someone around me might have lived through something similar, and feeling that energy without having to necessarily “tell my story” brings me peace, comfort, and connection.
Slow the World Down, from May Louie
Slow and steady wins the race – a slow, deep flow to explore the beauty in the quiet slow moments – letting go and exploring how each pose feels in your individual body. Harnessing this slow energy to approach some deep poses that you didn’t think you were capable of by feeling the subtleties of the poses.
Self-Love Flow, from Sara Beauchemin
So many women take care of everyone else before they take care of themselves. In this type of a flow, we work into a lot of heart opening asanas. Cracking the heart wide open and allowing each of us to put ourselves first, even if it’s for just that one hour on your mat. Movement is our medicine.
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